The slow death of $60 single player gaming


VentureBeat asked NPD for comments on Agents of Mayhem’s sales numbers. We have a thread for how that turned out here, but NPD’s analyst wrote something that I find interesting for gaming in general.

“The top-selling games in the console market at the moment are primarily service based games that promise significant, or even unlimited, hours of gameplay,” Piscatella explained in a note to GamesBeat. “Single-player, non-service based games have to be nearly perfect in execution not only with the game itself, but also in the marketing and promotion around the game, to get to the top of the charts. It is a very difficult market for the $60 single-player game to hit the volumes in a launch month that service based games can reach, even if they have been in the market for some time.”

“What?” I thought. “That doesn’t sound right.” I’m very much looking forward to… Umm… Hm. Let’s see a mostly single player game at $60… Uh… Huh. Assassin’s Creed Origins?

Maybe he’s right?


I think a lot of it is perceived value. Single player games, for the most part, are finite experiences. Multiplayer promises randomization.

It’s silly.


Pardon the tangent, but this is kind of a perennial topic I think. I remember the reason I ended up creating an account after years of lurking was so I could argue in Raph Koster’s thread on the death of the single player experience, and that was over ten years ago. I mean, if we think of games as a finite resource, a pie if you will, the multiplayer gaming slice will continue to grow while the “pure” single player experience shrinks, I guess that’s inevitable.

But I guess hardly anything these days is “pure” anything, everything is a weird hybrid. There are exceptions, like I guess The Witcher 3, that are big budget and have no multiplayer element. Wonder how many more of those we’ll be seeing.


Games with a good treadmill, offer the best value for money, in a ‘time per money spent’ sort of way. I would say a bigger factor, is the sheer number of FTP games that you can sink a significant amount of time into literally for free. It’s pretty difficult to compete with that, regardless of how good your game is.

I haven’t bought a 60$ game at release for…I can’t even remember the last one I bought, probably Diablo 3, and that certainly has the promise of the endless treadmill.


Yup. It’s been a thing for a while. It’s why I put “slow” in the title. I do think there’s a clear difference in the situation years ago compared to now. Even last gen, when people said similar things, it was really easy to dismiss it as hand-wringing. now? Not so much.

Also, the NPD’s specificity of the $60 figure is important. I can think of a a ton of successful SP games recently, but $60? Not so much.


There are a lot of single player, $60 games coming yet this year I’m looking forward to including Mario Odyssey, Wolfenstein II, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. YMMV.


The last 60$ game I bought was a pre-order for Mass Effect: Andromeda. So uh, yeah…


And even that wasn’t purely single player.



NieR Automata, Persona 5, and Breath of the Wild all came out this year and are $60 pure single-player experiences that saw widespread critical and commercial success.

The format is in no danger of continued success (let alone survival) as long as weird Japanese developers and Nintendo keep doing exactly what they’ve done for the past three decades.


All three Japanese games. Did NPD look at non Western games?

Although, tbh, volume was good but not incredible on those. Certainly commercial successes though.


It’s NPD, so other than Nintendo titles, Japanese games are going to be niche in their sales figures in the US. There will be some exceptions, but they’ll be rare.

Nier Automata, for example:

Which is pretty damned good.


Didn’t Resident Evil 7 sell really well also? Like 4 million copies if I recall.


I think so, but just like Nier’s numbers that’s global total. I don’t think anyone (other than NPD and the publishers) has the total US sales numbers.

Resident Evil 7 sits at about 450k total on Steam.
Nier Automata has about 600k on Steam.


I non-ironically 💖 loot crates you guys.


Yes. Resident Evil VII did well. There was also Ni-Oh which sold out of its initial run. Yakuza 0 was a critical and commercial success, too. Horizon: Zero Dawn… why does everyone forget that? This has been a GREAT year for single player games to be honest and Super Mario Odyssey specifically will likely continue that trend.


Imma only do this once, but I gotta:

Single-player $60 gaming is going strong…


Saying $60 single player games can’t get to the top of the charts isn’t the same thing as saying they aren’t successful or profitable. Some in the industry and analysts love to obsess over absolute sales and user numbers but ultimately the only thing that matters is financial efficiency.


On NeoGAF, someone pointed out Witcher 3, GTA V, Breath of the Wild, Bethesda games, etc. as successes and the specific analyst replied, “You’re emphasizing the point I was making in the statement. For a SP non service based game to reach the top of the charts, execution on both the title as well as the marketing and promotion has to be near perfect. The games you mention as successes? They did everything just about perfectly.”

Someone else said “The real take aways from this are that to be a really successful SP game you need a top shelf product with top level messaging and marketing” and NPD dude commented, “This is absolutely the correct takeaway.”


But isn’t that true of ANY top selling game? Are any of those Games As A Service games bad games? Are any of them mildly marketed? I don’t think so.

AAA budgets, AAA quality and AAA marketing sell $60 games. Period. This was known eons ago.

Also, Agents of Mayhem was poorly marketed. The NeoGAF thread has countless people in it thinking it was a multiplayer hero shooter, exactly the kind of game that supposedly succeeds! It wasn’t a AAA game from the get go. It also has a weak publisher behind it. It never should have been lumped in with those massive successes. Prey, a game pointed out as underperforming, had low marketing spend and it wasn’t pushed until right at release. They knew exactly what they wanted to do with that game because they clearly expected it to be an also ran.